Is it really almost Lent!? It seems like just yesterday that we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany! And then of course, Candlemas (on February 2nd), which concludes the Christmas season. This year we had a few extra weeks of "Sunday After Epiphany" before Septuaguesima Sunday, which is the first of the four weeks before the start of Lent. What a glorious way that the Church counts down to Her times of penance and Her times of celebration! How rightly ordered and so not of this world. While secular society is simply going through the motions of the different seasonal decor, (some stores already have Easter bunny candy and decorations for sale!), the Church is gently easing Her children into the "Great Quiet" of Lent. Starting on Septuagesima Sunday (this year it fell on February 13th), She removes the Gloria from the Mass (in the Latin Mass) and dresses Her sons in purple, the color of suffering. The following Sundays, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima continue to prepare us for the coming Lenten season until we finally reach Ash Wednesday. In his book "The Liturgical Year", Prosper Louis Pascal Guéranger writes, "Let us, during these days, which we are going to devote to the honest unflinching contemplation of our miseries, give glory to our God, and derive, from the knowledge of ourselves, fresh motives of confidence in Him, who, in spite of all our wretchedness and sin, humbled himself so low as to become one of us, in order that he might exalt us even to union with Himself." (The Liturgical Year Volume IV Septuagesima)
From generation to generation, Catholics have been preparing for the Lenten season as we are now. Of course some things have changed throughout the years, for example, in the past Catholics would avoid not only meat during the entirety of Lent, but also eggs and dairy! What a beautiful sacrifice for Our Lord! Today, we are not obliged to make such a considerable sacrifice, nor is it spiritually healthy for us to expect ourselves to be able to make such a difficult sacrifice. But we can certainly appreciate and admire these past efforts and let it lead us gently towards making a bit more effort in our own spiritual lives to suffer for Christ.
'When it (life) is all over you will not regret having suffered; rather you will regret having suffered so little, and suffered that little so badly.'
--St. Sebastian Valfre
One way that we can begin walking towards a holier life and have a more spiritually-ordered mindset is to read holy books, especially during the Lenten season. Here are some of my favorite books that I highly recommend. Some of them are very well known (its not a bad thing to reread a good book!). There is no need to read all of them for Lent of course, they are merely a wide variety of suggestions.
In no particular order:
The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise - Cdl. Robert Sarah
How To Profit From Your Faults: Based on the Writings of St. Francis de Sales - Joseph-Claude Tissot
Heavenwards - Mother Mary Loyola
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas à Kempis
My Daily Bread - Anthony J. Paone, SJ
The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: From the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich
Light and Peace: Instructions for Devout Souls to Dispel Their Doubts and Allay Their Fears - Carlo Giuseppe Quadrupani
The Liturgical Year Volume V Lent - Prosper Louis Pascal Guéranger
The Liturgical Year Volume VI Passiontide & Holy Week - Prosper Louis Pascal Guéranger
Preparation for Death (The Ascetical Works, #1) - St. Alfonso María de Liguori
Life Everlasting: A Theological Treatise on the Four Last Things - Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange
Christus Vincit: Christ's Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age - Bishop Athanasius Schneider
The Four Last Things Death, Judgment, Hell, Heaven - Martin von Cochem
Thy Will Be Done! - St. Francis de Sales
The Life of Mary As Seen By the Mystics - Raphael Brown
Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession - Scott Hahn
How to Be Happy - How to Be Holy - Paul O'Sullivan
On Loving God - St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Considerations and Devout Meditations for Every Day During the Holy Season of Lent - Annonymous S.J.
Meditations for Lent - St. Thomas Aquinas
What books do you enjoy reading during Lent? What books stirred your soul and set your heart on fire for love of God and repentance of sin? Perhaps it was a sermon or a talk online that you found that encouraged you to work more on becoming holier?
Let us continue to pursue God in our lives, through the ups and downs, through darkness of soul and through spiritual consolations. May this Lent be for your soul the balm it needs to grow closer to God.